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CYNIC

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • United States


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Cynic biography
Formed 1987 in Miami, Florida, USA - Disbanded in 1994 - Reunited in 2006

CYNIC was formed in November, 1987 by guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert. To finish up the lineup, Mark Van Erp (later of MONSTROCITY) was added on bass and a friend named Jack Kelly was added on vocals thus making CYNIC a four-piece. This early incarnation of CYNIC was focused on making only brutal death metal with primary influence taken from bands such as VENOM, POSSESSED, KREATOR and DESTRUCTION. It is this lineup that would later be featured on the release of their first, self-titled demo in 1988.

After Jack left in 1988, Paul took over vocal duties, Jason Gobel was added on guitar and and in 1989, they cut their second demo, entitled "Reflections Of A Dying World", consisting of four songs. All of the songs on this demo were of the speed metal/thrash genre, with even some punk elements incorporated within. This lineup soon began touring the south Florida area and bootlegs exist of them as far back as May of 1988. Soon after, Mark left the band, Tony Choy was added on bass and in 1990, CYNIC released their third demo (also self-titled). This helped to gain them a large following throughout southern and central Florida, as well as their constant touring and cameo appearances in the south Florida area. This new lineup would remain intact until at least 1991.

At this time, the bands' influences were already starting to change. While they were still listening to contemporaries like ATHEIST, and were still inspired by seeing how "sick" some bands would get to express themselves, their technical, musical and creative abilities were growing, and consequently, they began listening to more technical forms of music. Their primary influences soon included jazz and fusion, such as Chick Corea and Allan Holdsworth, but also bands such as WATCHTOWER and Frank ZAPPA. This change in technical abilities had already made its way into their songs as the band took a great leap forward in musicianship for their second and third demos.

By the early part of 1991, CYNIC had evolved into a progressive speed/death metal type band, although the band themselves didn't really consider themselves to be death metal. The music had the technicality of progressive speed metal, with the brutality and vocal qualities of death metal. They cut a fourth and final demo in 1991 (financed by RoadRunner Records) consisting of three tracks. Two of these tracks would, in a dras...
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CYNIC discography


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CYNIC top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.16 | 579 ratings
Focus
1993
4.15 | 547 ratings
Traced in Air
2008
3.54 | 193 ratings
Kindly Bent To Free Us
2014
3.51 | 40 ratings
Ascension Codes
2021

CYNIC Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CYNIC Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CYNIC Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.67 | 6 ratings
Uroboric Forms (The Complete Demo Recordings)
2017

CYNIC Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.09 | 13 ratings
'88 Demo
1988
1.80 | 12 ratings
Reflections of a Dying World
1989
2.48 | 12 ratings
'90 Demo
1990
3.04 | 13 ratings
Demo 1991
1991
3.14 | 9 ratings
Promo 08
2008
3.91 | 93 ratings
Re-traced
2010
3.98 | 127 ratings
Carbon-Based Anatomy
2011
3.55 | 59 ratings
The Portal Tapes
2012
3.32 | 15 ratings
Humanoid
2018

CYNIC Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Ascension Codes by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.51 | 40 ratings

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Ascension Codes
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by SteveG

3 stars This is quite a strange album from Cynic. Bereft of former members Sean Reinert and Sean Malone, on drums and bass respectively (both having sadly have passed away), you know you are going to be in for a lesser listening experience. Malone's fretless bass and especially Reinert's drumming were as much a cornerstone to the band's sound as Paul Masvidal's guitar playing and songwriting. I'll even go so far as to say that the late Reinert was one of the best prog drummers who ever lived and was easily in the class of greats like Palmer and Peart. His ability to be highly technical while still being able to swing the groove can't be overlooked.

So what we have here is basically a Masvidal solo album with hired sidemen. Dave Mackay does the keys and rubbery sounding synth bass, while Matt Lynch does the drumming in a more conventional rock style than his predecessor, with all of the rock drumming clichés like rim shots and jazzy high hat rhythms.

But the main problem is with the music itself. More in the mainstream of prog, with heavy use of synths, the songs sound very uninspired in their now spacy atmospheric style. The second major problem is a group of songs bereft of catchy riffs and hooks that was so prominent on past albums. In fact, an infectious riff doesn't surface until the intro of the album's 13th track titled "Aurora". By then, it's a case of too little too late. The third problem is that Masdival's weak vocals are all but buried in the sound mix until the the album's last few vocal tracks. Masdival might not be a powerhouse vocalist, but his voice is pleasant and fits with his song's subject matter of attaining higher consciousness and a peaceful repose.

So, I can't recommend this album for Cynic fans, but perhaps those who like generic sounding atmospheric space rock might enjoy it, so 2.5 stars rounded up to 3 sounds about right.

 Ascension Codes by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.51 | 40 ratings

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Ascension Codes
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Ascension Codes" is the 4th full-length studio album by US progressive rock/metal act Cynic. The album was released through Season of Mist in November 2021. Itīs the successor to "Kindly Bent To Free Us" from 2014, although the "Uroboric Forms - The Complete Demo Recordings" compilation album was released in 2017, and Cynic also released the "Humanoid" single in 2018 (the first new music from the band since 2014), and the "Integral" single in 2021.

Itīs safe to say that Cynic have been through some years of turmoil and tragedy since the release of "Kindly Bent To Free Us" (2014) as drummer/original member Sean Reinert left in 2015 and subsequently tragically died of a heart attack in January 2020. A few years after he left and some disputes over the continued use of the Cynic name later, Reinert was replaced by Matt Lynch in 2017, who plays on "Ascension Codes". Bassist Sean Malone stuck with lead vocalist/guitarist Paul Masvidal, but another tragedy struck as he chose to end his own life in December 2020. Masvidal opted not to recruit a new bassist, and "Ascension Codes" actually doesnīt feature bass at all. Instead Masvidal hired keyboard player Dave Mackay to record the bass parts using a bass synthesizer.

Although Masvidal was always the main composer in Cynic, losing 2/3 of the lineup who have recorded most of the bandīs previous material is bound to be a big loss and to have an impact on future material. Anyone familiar with Cynic knows how skilled, unique, and important for the bandīs sound both Reinert and Malone were, and "Ascension Codes" is therefore in many ways a new beginning for Cynic.

Stylistically there is no doubt that youīre listening to a Cynic album though. Although Max Phelps is creadited for performing additional vocals, the extreme metal vocals are very few and far between. When they occur they are layered with the clean vocals and buried in the mix, which means they sound more like rough whispers than anything else. Masvidal performs his usual effect laden and futuristic sounding clean vocals. The atmosphere of the music is tranquil, spiritual, and mellow, although the album does feature more heavy parts. The complex heavy riffs arenīt the primary focus of the music though, so itīs the fusion influenced rhythms, futuristic synths, and mellow atmospheres which the band have opted to make their focal point. "Ascension Codes" is generally a layered and very busy album, but the great dynamics in the music make it a slightly more accessible release than what it may appear upon initial listens (at least in terms of being a pleasant listen).

"Ascension Codes" features 18 tracks and a total playing time of 49:09 minutes. Only half of the tracks are regular length (3-5 minutes long) songs though and the remaining tracks are short intros, transitions, or outros. Very few would probably despute that Masvidal is a musical genius and that his approach to writing and performing music is very unique, but even after repeated listens "Ascension Codes" is an album which is hard to crack. For all itīs technical finesse, gorgeous melancholic melodies, and multible layers of intruments and vocals, the tracks seem to melt together into one long flowing listening experience, and a few more memorable hooks would have been welcome. The album has a tendency to become a little too ambient and atmospheric, and just a little more attitude or edge could have made the album a more interesting listen. The whole UFO, celestial beings, ethereal spritual lyrics/imagery isnīt a surprise and fits with the general impression of how Masvidal appears as a person, but again the whole thing ends up a little light weight new age tinged. Itīs proabably exactly what Masvidal is aiming for, but a few darker moments wouldnīt have hurt.

Upon conclusion "Ascension Codes" is still a quality release by Cynic, but itīs audible that itīs now the work of only one man, and the lack of Maloneīs fretless bass playing and Reinertīs creative virtuosic drumming (although Lynch is definitely a capable replacement) do have a slightly negative impact on the music. Masvidal is also credited for producing "Ascension Codes" and therefore there are simply no one left to make a constructive (and sometimes necessary) criticism of his songwriting ideas or song arrangements. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved, although "Ascension Codes" is the type of album which may (or may not) grow on repeated listens, and therefore my rating is prone to change.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

 Ascension Codes by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.51 | 40 ratings

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Ascension Codes
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by lukretio

3 stars It's impossible to start this review of Cynic's fourth full-length album Ascension Codes without mentioning the sad twist of fate that in 2020 claimed the lives of both drummer Sean Reinert and bass-player Sean Malone in the space of less than 12 months. Although Reinert was no longer part of Cynic (he had left the band in 2015), his premature death due to heart failure hit hard the Cynic family, possibly contributing to Malone's bout of depression that lead to his suicide. Faced with such terrible events, surviving band members Paul Masvidal (guitar/vocals) and Matt Lynch (who joined Cynic as drummer since 2017) were left with the painful task to assemble a new line-up and complete the music for an album that had been in gestation since 2014's Kindly Bent to Free Us. Masvidal felt immediately that it was not possible to replace Malone and therefore asked pianist Dave Mackay to perform the bass lines of the album on bass synthesizer instead. The trio of musicians were further helped to put together the record by a small number of guest artists, including guitar wizard Plini (who guests on "The Winged Ones"), vocalist Max Phelps, and ambient artist DARK (guitar textures).

The end result is Ascension Codes, a 49-minute cosmic journey divided in 18 individual tracks that alternate between short ambient interludes and lengthier "proper" songs. Musically, the album sounds unmistakably 21st-century Cynic, merging together progressive rock, jazz/fusion, ambient music and a touch of alt/post rock. It follows closely in the footsteps of Cynic's previous LP Kindly Bent to Free Us, accentuating even further the jazz/fusion/ambient influences and toning down the metal vibes instead. The music is spacey, mellow and atmospheric, engulfing the listener in a hazy sea of mesmerizing drum patterns, groovy bass lines, and layered swathes of dreamy guitars and keyboards. The guitar riffs are nervous and angular, yet strangely smooth and immersive. Lynch's work behind the drumkit is simply astonishing, his performance a treasure-trove of clever, hyper-technical drum patterns that are nevertheless always played in the best interest of the song. Mackay's dexterous keyboard playing is also a great addition to Cynic's music, contributing smooth jazz vibes to the proceedings as well as excellent grooves on the bass synthesizer. Masvidal's dreamy, high-pitched clean vocals fit perfectly with the mellow atmosphere of the songs, channeling a sort of futuristic Jon Anderson (Yes), both sonically and lyrically.

The album packs some excellent tracks, like the emotionally-charged "Mythical Serpents" where Masvidal's delicate falsetto tugs the right heartstrings, almost pushing the song in Sigur Rós territory. "Aurora" is more urgent and direct, adding some subtly catchy alt-rock influences that make it one of the most memorable songs of the album. Meanwhile, "In a Multiverse where Atoms Sing" and album closer "Diamond Light Body" are pure prog heaven, reaching levels of hyperactivity and melodic sublimity that are reminiscent of Devin Townsend's best work.

However, elsewhere the album loses a little bit steam, especially towards the middle where the long, ambient piece "DNA Activation Template" is rather monotonous and breaks unnecessarily the flow of the album. The short interludes between the main songs are also not fantastic in terms of flow. These ambient pieces do not work very well as intros or outros to the songs they bookend, but rather give the record a sense of "stop-and-go" that is incongruous with the immersive ebb and flow of the main compositions. Another complaint I have with the album is that it's a tad too samey and homogeneous. It lives in its own very definite sonic space, made up of mellow and spacey atmospheres that are endearing, but also fail to leave a very strong first impression on the listener. Repeated listens are certainly necessarily here, but even then I sense a general struggle to ascend beyond the album's self-imposed dreamy confines with something that is truly momentous and unforgettable.

With a better flow and a couple more arresting songs in the vein of "Mythical Serpents", "Aurora" or "In a Multiverse where Atoms Sing", Ascension Codes could have easily crept up on my top 10 of 2021 albums. While it probably won't end up there, it is nevertheless a very pleasurable album to sit through and will no doubt please Cynic aficionados as well as fans of the mellower, Floyd-infused brands of progressive rock and metal.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

 Traced in Air by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.15 | 547 ratings

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Traced in Air
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by progtime1234567

5 stars On the last album, Cynic had more death metal, on this one, it's pretty much all gone. Traced in Air is their second studio album, right after Focus, which was their more death metal one. On Traced in Air, Cynic opts for a more melodic and progressive rock charged style of progressive metal, similar to Opeth and even some Porcupine Tree. I'll tell you this, Traced in Air is very good.

Focus was my first Cynic album. I haven't heard Focus in over a few eons, so my opinion on it isn't valid until I hear it again but I heard this album today and it was great. This album is different than Focus mainly because it has more melody and progressive rock to it. One thing I remember from Focus is the vocoder processed vocals, which are gone on this album, replaced by melodic clean singing. We still have Cookie Monster on this album though, so don't be too frightened by the changes made.

All I can say about this album is that it's a progressive metal classic. It's a classic because it has all the great progressive metal elements in it. Traced in Air is listenable for the regular progressive metal or rock fan who isn't into the heavier side of progressive metal, so it'll definitely please more people than Focus would. You'll have to listen to this yourself; trust me, it's pretty dang good. Essential progressive metal listening? Yes.

 Focus by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.16 | 579 ratings

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Focus
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Coming in times where progressive metal was just experiencing its genesis, Miami-based metal act Cynic happened to release a very challenging, controversial and different album. Hailing from the US extreme metal scene, the band has been gaining experience and prominence since 1987, packing all of their skills and impressions and explosively utilizing them to create this crazy album.

The first and most obvious aspect of the sound of 'Focus', is the similarity to 80s King Crimson which, as I presume, must have been somewhat of a blueprint on where the band should head to, as the album carries a lot of resemblance to 'Discipline'.

Of course, this is all broken through their extreme metal prism, with all the bruting, technical riffs and almost guttural vocals. But this still does not describe the full sonic picture. There is a lot of experimentation here, a strong jazz inclination, mainly by bassist Sean Malone, and if metal fusion was a thing, this album would have been a perfect fit.

The song structures also do not follow the usual death/extreme metal standards; instead, the band lets the songs to unveil as they play. An interesting moment is the 'robotic' vocals achieved through a vocoder-type effect, which if I understand correctly, Paul Masvidal did because of the danger of losing his voice. It sounds strange, even appalling at first, I must admit, but at the same time it is different and unexpected, and as the music plays on, it takes a more meaningful form; Also, I really can't think of another extreme metal band that incorporated such a thing into their music and in the end it sounded comprehensible.

In this regard, both vocalists fit quite well with the music, and they use their voices more like instruments, rather than to show off a certain skill or a style of singing. (keyboard player Tony Teegarden provides the death growls)

A rather spectacular playing can also be appreciated from drummer Sean Reinert and guitarists Jason Gobel and Paul Masvidal, who I already mentioned. The songs vary from catchy (yes, this description fits some of the songs here, especially the opening track) to very aggressive and fast-paced (like 'Celestial Voyage' or 'The Eagle Nature') to purely experimental numbers (like 'Sentiment', 'I'm but a Wave to' or 'Textures'), and most importantly they work very well as a whole, making the album an enjoyable experience.

The initial negative reaction to this was the reason for the band to split up quickly after 'Focus' came to life which only goes to show that when something is different and it provokes our perception, it gets rejected. However, this album is appreciated today and for good reasons, it is so inventive and original! No one really does progressive metal the way Cynic did it on 'Focus'.

 Carbon-Based Anatomy by CYNIC album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2011
3.98 | 127 ratings

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Carbon-Based Anatomy
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars CARON-BASED ANATOMY EP

After giving the metal world a huge boost of more technically dazzling jazz-fusion workouts on its debut album "Focus" which remains an undisputed classic in the proggy metal section of the supermarket, CYNIC quickly called it quits and went on a 15 year hiatus at least as a brand name. Founding members guitarist / vocalist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert immediately went in the direction of ambient laced alternative pop in the indie rock band Æon Spoke while bassist Sean Malone went the opposite direction into the proggy jazz-fusion instrumental band Gordian Knot. Both bands released a few albums in the 90s and all was amicable with both Reinert and Masvidal appearing on Gordian Knot albums however the creative differences were vast.

Come 2006 and Masvidal decided to reform CYNIC and played a few gigs around Europe. The magic was rekindled which led to a new album that resulted in the lauded late but finally there followup "Traced In Air" which pretty much provided the perfect triumvirate effect of "Focus" era CYNIC merged with the atmospheric spiciness of Æon Spoke and the gnarled technical jazzy workouts as heard from Gordian Knot. While the death metal had been toned down several notches, several moments reminisced of the early days when the Tampa scene was still smoking hot. After "Traced In Air" things got a little weird. Instead of releasing another album, two years later the "new" CYNIC instead released an EP titled "Re-Traced" which reinterpreted four tracks from "Traced In Air" that took the bands sound closer to the world of Æon Spoke than early CYNIC but since this was just considered a little experimental blip between albums, metal fans just shook it off as one of those things.

Still awaiting a new album with the hopes of revisiting the "Focus" years, CYNIC surprised again with yet another EP titled CARBON-BASED ANATOMY to emerge in 2011 (11/11/11 actually) with only six tracks that amounted to only a mere 23 minutes of playing time. It was clear that the Æon Spoke side of the equation was here to stay when an unused track ("Homo Sapiens") from that band resurfaced as the title track. Out of the six tracks only three pick up where "Traced In Air" left off with the remaining three tracks sounding nothing like CYNIC at all, well at least not in such a way as they are presented. "Amidst The Coals" begins the playlist and upon first listen you wonder if you popped in the wrong disc as this sounds like some sort of ambient new age music! Yes, an ambient airy melody takes you into the ethers accompanied by Amy Correia from previous CYNIC albums offering a traditional icaro which is a magic song performed by Amazonian indigenous tribes in order to provide medicinal healing sessions.

The ambient prayer circle of the intro slowly fades into the more upbeat title track which instantly shows an uncanny production job of how each track seamlessly flows into the next on this EP which essentially makes this a six act suite of sorts. Along with the ambient synth sounds Reinert's jazzy drumming attacks slowly ushers in the vocals which find Masvidal's unique vocal style somewhere between U2's Bono in his passionate delivery and Toby Driver from Kayo Dot in eccentricity which in tandem finds a wider range of softer tones that bring the CYNIC sound into higher dimensions but still no metal! Well, that's what you begin to think until the four minute mark and then suddenly some heavy chord stomps and sizzling guitar solos remind you that CYNIC is, well at least WAS a metal band! Perhaps an ambient ethno-metal band at this point but enough to squeak into metal databases anyways!

The track is followed by the Ravi Shankar sounding "Bija!" which finds a sitar and tablas in conversation with female vocal chants however the melody is the same as the bridge of the title track and thus the subliminal connections have been made and then it sinks in on what a magnificent journey CARBON-BASED ANATOMY is for all its brevity! The next two tracks "Box Up My Bones" and "Elves Beam Out" both deliver the metal goods at last but are in no hurry to do so. Like the other tracks they begin with slow clean guitar arpeggios and atmospheric bliss before breaking out the bass grooves, percussive jazz lessons and guitar distortion. If you're looking for a connection to the "Traced In Air" album then you've found it at last and it does not disappoint however remember that you are in a cloud city now and that metal is just an after thought. Outbursts of heavy riffs and guitar solos crank out in full bombast but all in all this EP has demoted them to side notes rather than the star of the show.

As the EP ends with some kind of new age tribute to Enya with "Hieroglyph," Correia now recites a poem of cosmic grandeur as the atmospheric ambience swirls around her words as if zephyr winds were caressing Isis in mid-flight. And then a couple of minutes later the whole shebang is over. No doubt this may come off as a disappointment for those expecting a headbanging experience and that was even my initial reaction however this is a work of subtleties and sort of grows on you once you just bathe yourself in all its glory. While the metal bombast is set to simmer, the technical prowess of the musicians is on high although it does alternate between Brian Eno ambient textures and sounds more like Gordian Knot than early CYNIC. From a progressive rock perspective, this is an excellent album but for those who aren't so forgiving when the metal has been forbidden from making contact with the pedal then you will have to go back to "Focus" to get that fix. While admittedly a step down from the magnanimous masterpiece that resulted in "Traced In Air," CARBON-BASED ANATOMY is still very much a compelling piece of work in its own right.

 Traced in Air by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.15 | 547 ratings

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Traced in Air
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars It's hard to convey some two decades into the 21st century what a big deal CYNIC's landmark album "Focus" was back in 1993 when it single-handedly shattered the playbook of death metal and took the fledgling genre into the world of jazz and electroncia. Part Morbid Angel, part Mahavishnu Orchestra and part Massive Attack, this Miami based band basically launched a whole new strain of what would be coined jazz-metal and then called it quits. The consequences of "Focus" being thrown into the limelight of underground extreme metalheads was that it upped the bar several notches in the proficiency department and while band's like Death and Atheist were in the fusion game as well, CYNIC took progressive metal into a completely different dimension with "Focus" which remains a high mark to which technical metal music wizards still strive to emulate.

Despite dropping one of metal's most revered albums onto on unsuspecting world, CYNIC quickly disbanded as they were working on a second studio album due to musical and personal differences. Jason Gobel (guitars), Paul Masvidal (guitars, vocals) and Sean Reinert (drums) continued together and formed a short-lived band called Portal (before the Australian band of the same name came around), bassist Sean Malone formed the fusion-metal band Gordian Knot and then Reinert and Masvidal formed yet another band called Aeon Spoke which was more of a pop album centered around an acoustic emo style. The former members of CYNIC happily went their own ways for almost 15 years but some of the members were starting to feel that they had unfinished business to take care of in the world of CYNIC and in 2006 Paul Masvidal announced that CYNIC would reunite to play at various metal and rock festivals. With no new album the band played songs from "Focus" the band Portal as well as a few covers and the new song "Evolutionary Sleeper."

The new band minus Gobel decided the time was right to resurrect CYNIC and finish the material started for a sophomore album that never made it the first time around. With new guitarist Tymon Kruidenier, CYNIC finally released its second album TRACED IN AIR in 2008, fifteen long years after "Focus." While expectations were cast upon that debut masterpiece as a reference point as to where the band might develop its new sounds, the fact that there was a 15 year delay and several other band experiences in between meant that TRACED IN AIR was more like the sum of all that came before and as the title indicates is more focused on an AIR-y feel as opposed to a knock your socks off death metal extravaganza. While still steeped in massive molten metal guitar antics, TRACED IN AIR was more of a light technical display of jazzy chord progression displayed in echoey arpeggios that set the tone for the eruptive heavier elements to follow and not the other way around. There were less dueling twin guitar leads and more focus to layering effects of polyrhythms and guitar tones.

From the chaotic swirls of "Nunc Fluens" that sound like the band acting as a receiver channeling the ethers to like a radio station, the rhythmic chaos slowly coalesces into the jazzed up guitar riffs that reassure that the band was still in the metal camp however brief they may be before the unadulterated jazz guitar intro of "The Space For This" sets an overall tone for TRACED IN AIR as Masavidal delivers his tender clean vocals in a subdued passionate plea, a style that he implements throughout the album that only harkens back to "Focus" with Kruidenier's growly vocal accompaniments limited to backing supplement contrasting effects. The beauty of TRACED IN AIR is how it effortlessly transmogrifies from placid spaced out jazz guitar runs to blistering jazzy fusion metal with Reinert's drumming virtuosity often taking center stage. As with focus, a feminine vocal counterpoint finds its way into key moments as to soften the raging rampages of the metal aspects as Amy Correia takes the place of SAonia Otey.

While "Focus" was fairly scattered, TRACED IN AIR is actually the more "focused" album of the two as the album displays a perfect mix of disparate elements which finds each track running into the next and the softness and bombastic playing together like well behaved children at a Christmas play. It's clear that the chemistry was on fire once again and CYNIC crated an unbelievable successful comeback with this menagerie of technically infused jazz-metal that while not as revolutionary as the band's first album was unbelievably relevant for the time of its release. Gone are the vocoder effects and thus this album is less alienating and more intimate but the bursts of angularity are steered into jazzy harmonies and melodies that keep the entire album feeling unified. This is one that may disappoint upon the first listen if you have already gone gaga over "Focus" but as i've listened to this many times over the years, it's one that grows on you in a completely different way. Drop the comparisons and meditate on TRACED IN AIR on its own terms and it quickly becomes clear that this is a flawless album that delivers another magic moment in the world of progressive metal and the production is flawless.

 The Portal Tapes by CYNIC album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2012
3.55 | 59 ratings

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The Portal Tapes
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "The Portal Tapes" is a full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Cynic. The album was released through Season of Mist in March 2012. It's not really a Cynic album though and it was probably only released under the Cynic monicker to capitalize on the wave of success that Cynic were riding after their comeback in 2006. The material featured on "The Portal Tapes" were originally recorded under the Portal monicker after Cynic disbanded in 1994. Although Cynic split-up Paul Masvidal (guitars, vocals), Sean Reinert (drums), and Jason Gobel (guitars) opted to continue playing together and formed Portal with Cris Kringel (bass), and female vocalist/keyboard player Aruna Abrams. Portal recorded enough material for a full album, but the project ended up shelved until 2012 when Season of Mist picked it up and released it under the Cynic monicker.

Stylistically there are many similarities between Cynic and Portal, but there are also some fundamental differences. First off Portal features female clean vocals as well as male clean vocals, and no extreme distorted vocals. Next there are no hard edged riffing or anything remotely aggressive about the music. The material on "The Portal Tapes" is a dreamy atmospheric/new age type of music with fusion oriented rhythms as the foundation (maybe new age fusion isn't the worst description). There's an almost ethereal spiritual quality to the proceedings, which song titles like "Karma's Plight", "Cosmos", and "Mirror Child" also suggest.

The musicianship is on a high level on all posts. Aruna Abrams is a skilled vocalist, and Paul Masvidal's sedated dreamy vocals compliment her well. It's all very pleasant sounding and relaxing but by no means simple or easily accessible. You'll have to dig for hooks and the tracks aren't instantly easy to tell apart either. The latter is a slight issue to my ears, and the songwriting could have prospered from a bit more variation and more catchy moments. The album is very well produced, featuring a clean, clear, and detailed sound, which suits the atmospheric music well. So while the music doens't make as much impact as it could have, "The Portal Tapes" is still a pretty interesting release for fans of atmospheric music with fusion rhythms and clean female/male singing, and the high level musicianship and professional sounding production pull in a positive direction too. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

 Humanoid by CYNIC album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2018
3.32 | 15 ratings

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Humanoid
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Humanoid" is a digital one-track single release by US progressive metal act Cynic. The single was released through Season of Mist in January 2018. Itīs the first release with new original material since the bandīs third full-length studio album "Kindly Bent to Free Us" from 2014. I expected the single to be a successor to a new studio album in 2018 but at this point (January 2019) a full year later, Cynic still havenīt released their fourth full-length studio album. Since the release of "Kindly Bent to Free Us" thereīs been a major lineup change as drummer and founding member Sean Reinert left in 2015. He is replaced here by Matt Lynch, who has some pretty big shoes to fill.

Stylistically "Humanoid" sounds a bit more like the progressive metal oriented material on "Traced in Air (2008)", than the more progressive rock oriented material on "Kindly Bent to Free Us (2014)", but itīs not a particularly heavy track. Paul Masvidal only sings using his clean voice, and his almost sedated and slightly melancholic vocal style is probably as much an aquired taste as always. He has the sort of voice and singing style which would fit perfectly on an alternative rock album.

The musicianship is on a high level on all posts, and the sound production is professional and detailed, so while "Humanoid" to my ears isnīt a mind blowingly great track, as it brings little new to the Cynic palette, and therefore doesnīt stand out much in their discography, itīs still a good quality atmospheric progressive metal track like only Cynic can make them. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

 Focus by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.16 | 579 ratings

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Focus
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Luqueasaur

3 stars It plays just like Crimson, except it isn't Crimson: 7/10

Mixing a small dose of electronic music on a death metal sonority makes a futuristic extreme metal of some sort that, apparently, packs quite a punch. FOCUS is a good album and in many ways different from the ordinary "progressive" (most of the times it's just technical) death metal. The active guitar and bass presence is something to behold, and the ecstasy of each track is electrifying. However, the album also bears its cons. First, the main vocals are terrible. The growling isn't of an annoying type, it's just poorly executed. Granted, the robotic chants that sometimes accompanies it are really cool, but that's how far it goes - the duo of horrible and decent. Its second and utmost flaw is the lack of eclectism. All tracks sound way too similar to each other. If anything, FOCUS sounds like a 36-minutes-long with eight acts, because no matter the style - acoustic, ambient, aggressive - the tracks all seem to share a common core of melodies, chord progressions, and all those other fancy music theory stuff. While it doesn't denigrate FOCUS' enjoyability, it certainly makes me doubt of CYNIC's musicianship capability. They add something new to the table but fail to develop their idea. And for that matter, the further I can go is to acknowledge it is a good, but not essential album.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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